“Fairy Fitzgerald” and Titania’s Changeling

John Anster Christian Fitzgerald (1819? – 1906) was one of the earlier Victorian painters to embrace fairies as a subject, and earned the nickname “Fairy Fitzgerald” due to his apparent obsession. His depictions tended to run dark and sinister, featuring hideous fairyland creatures, and were laced with overt references to drug-induced hallucinations. And while many of his counterparts painted scenes from literature, most of Fitzgerald’s work involved fairies born from his own imagination. Except for this:

Titania and the Changeling · Date: unknown · pencil, watercolor · 28.6 x 44.5 cm · Private collection

With many thanks to the Dark Classics Art Gallery for this insightful take on Fitzgerald’s Titania and the Changeling (for full text, follow the link above):

Titania is shown embracing the changeling child, while her fairy attendants look on in the left of the picture. Oberon with his attendants may be the figure in the upper right corner; the mischievous Puck dances in the foreground as he tries to steal the garland of flowers. Fitzgerald has deployed some of his favourite fairy motifs in the present watercolour; musical instruments fashioned from objects of the natural world, such as the spider’s web harp and the flower trumpeter and insects being ridden by sprites. The watercolour is surrounded by a border of wildflowers, dog roses, sweets peas, convolvulus and foxgloves. Purple convolvulus is a narcotic and the meaning of this flower can either be sleep or death, on the right hand Fitzgerald has painted the poisonous foxglove, both flowers may suggest more sinister connotations.

Fiztgerald’s other work is likewise exquisite. He leaned toward vivid colors, and though his canvases were small, they featured incredibly detailed scenes. A FairyRoom Fitzgerald favorite, noteable for the subjects being neither tormented nor surrounded by baleful imagery, is Fairies in a Bird’s Nest, (circa 1860) a detail of which appears below:

And the entire painting:

But to be true to Fitzgerald’s body of work, we must include a typical painting of his, and so here we see a Bad creature shown astride the wings of a bat, attempting to spear an innocent Good water-sprite. Par for the course for Fairy Fitzgerald.

The Fairy’s Lake ·  circa 1866 ·  Oil on board · 152 x 203 mm · Tate Gallery